General Budget 2016
The much awaited union budget has been presented on 29 February. There are three noteworthy things. The first is the budget speech and the impression that it sought to create. Second is the outlay on various issues. The third is re-arrangements of figures to give a different picture of same outlay than the actual. Coming to the budget speech, it is a very aggressive attempt to project that this government has now turned its attention to rural distress. All budgets after 1991 – after liberalization – have concentrated on corporate sector in one degree or the other; some budgets have been almost entirely corporate budgets, some have tried to balanced, but emphasis all these years have been corporate, and the complaint of the farm sector has been that the ten years of the UPA rule and the two years of NDA rule have not really invested effectively in the agricultural sector. The speech definitely tries to undo that impression by giving the impression that they have gone whole-hog in giving large investment to the agriculture sector is not entirely true. The actual outlay have increased but not to the extent required. They have repeated the things they have been doing especially farm insurance etc. But by re-arranging the figures, for instance, the interest subvention of rupees 15 thousand crores which was earlier shown under banking or finance have now been shown under agriculture. That is just an eye wash, nobody get impress, because there is no additional money provided to the farm sector. But the interesting twist in the narrative is why this government thinks it necessary to create this impression?
After the Bihar election results they have realized that it would not be enough to just talk of foreign investment and Make in India etc. etc., because the real distress lies in the farm sector. To that extent it is good, but if you see the past tradition such as budget with Finance Minister said he will not present a populist budget, but what he has done? It is sort of a populist one. It is normally done in election year; doing it three years before elections shows that there is some realization if not panic in the party that if things go on like two years, 2019 will be poor show.
The reply to the President’s address to the Lok Sabha today, the Prime Minister looks mellowed down but he cannot help taking school-boy type of humor in dealing with the opponents. They should depute somebody else in the BJP to say these things, not the Prime Minister himself. Prime Minister speech should be from high pedestal. If you see Manmohan Singh, before that, Rajeev Gandhi, Indira Gandhi they maintained the high dignity of the Prime Minister’s office, however provoked they might be. The current Prime Minister as he himself confessed in his speech that he is new to the job, but by now two years he should have understood that people respect a sober and responsible Prime Minister, rather than just exchanging the party with rahul Gandhi, who is quite young and he may be wanting to become Prime Minister, you should not reply to him in the same tone. Of course he very emphatically pointed out and quoting from scripture etc. that young people should respect the older one. He referred to Rahul Gandhi’s tearing off the ordinance. All that is OK. Points are well made; it should be made by another spokesman by the BJP not by the Prime Minister. But again the underlying message from the Prime Minister address I could find that is understood that you may get a mandate from the people, but to run Parliament it has to be bipartisan (multiparty), i.e. to take everybody along. And he did try in the last 15 minutes of his speech he said that we must all work together and develop a consensus. For bureaucracy has nothing to lose. Politician fight with each other somebody comes somebody goes the bureaucracy remain without any answerability, because once they get a job they retired only after 30-35 years. He fell short and I think that is where his colleague should take up the matter after discussing with other parties. Not only the bureaucracy, even the judiciary.
They way the Supreme Court rejected the National Judicial Appointment Commission is absolutely wrong in democracy. But just now the Supreme Court thinks with all the politicians putting up a poor show they can run amuck. In fact Parliament should make a firm understanding among all parties; parliament must be supreme. Nowhere in the world judges appoint judges, here they made it a rule without any sanction of law. It is totally wrong and it should be corrected. I do not want to dwell on the other issues of judiciary but unless the legislature shows that there is line drawn their power and the judiciary, it will not augur well for the future of the country. Just now it may suits somebody. Of course the Prime Minister said a very funny thing, he tried to tell the Congress that in your time things were other way round; during BJP time they cannot tolerate even slogan shouting by few students – it killing an ant with Stengun – that is not required. Students are there at that age they tend to be carried away they tend to be misguided, they should be explained, counseled, sobered. The police do not have to deal with them. In no country in the world student rebellion had been quelled by the Police. Of course in India it is not yet rebellion but you are creating a rebellion. Earlier you control these tendencies the better it will be for smooth functioning of democracy and for BJP to remain in power if you want to be an alternative to the Congress party you must have a long-term view. The example at hand is of Kashmir.
Once the electorate votes and there is a hung assembly, then there is no mechanism for you to find out from the electorate what they want. The day BJP and PDP joined hands this columnist written that it will be bad for both of the parties, they will both be losers, because they are at the opposite end of the spectrum. It will be obvious to the people that just to grab power, without any principle they are joining hands, but you cannot have the electorates, the electorates have given their indication. The funeral of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the biggest shock for Mehbooba Mufti. In their eyes Mufti was a leader next to Sheikh Abdulla in post-independent India, however misplaced that comparison is. They definitely thought he is shoulder above Farooq Abdulla, but the turnout of 2000 people in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s funeral gave a shock to Mehbooba. Out of 2000 I am sure thousand will be government and police and security people. No shopkeeper down their shutter even in Bijbehara which the stronghold of Mufti sahib. Now the trade off is whether she wants to enjoy five years of power which she can without any difficulty but be a loser in the valley as far as credibility and future is concerned or she should give up the power for the time being and rebuild the party to remain relevant whenever the elections are held – after a few years or after the governor’s rule president’s rule as many years as they continue that. Of course, there will be pressure from other parties to have elections. This is a very difficult decision for her. I understand her problem but she should consult senior party men and take a wise decision they should not throw away the goodwill that Mufti sahib Created for the PDP for sake of power; in that Mufti sahib in away made an error by joining hand with BJP, but Mufti Sahab was a tall man he could have done something. Now it is a very slippery ground they should be careful. Of course Governor’s rule president’s rule is no option to democratic government but the situation in Kashmir is peculiar and Mehbooba will do well to keep her own counsel.